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Three tourism startups reveal what they’re doing to protect their businesses right now

Emily Tan of Klook , LokaLocal’s Rachael Lum, and Rickson Goh of Tourplus on the impact of COVID-19.

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Vulcan Post reached out to three tourism and travel startups to get some insight on the situation for them. We managed to get a hold of: Emily Tan, marketing lead of Klook Malaysia, Rachael Lum, content and marketing lead of LokaLocal, and Rickson Goh, CEO of Tourplus.

By now, it’s probably clear how the tourism industry has been impacted, but what have these startups been doing about the situation?

The Bleak Picture

One of the biggest negative impacts has of course been to the number of tourist arrivals, with customers cancelling or rescheduling their travel bookings on Klook, Emily shared.

It’s the same for LokaLocal, and Rachael added that with Visit Malaysia 2020 getting cancelled, all their upcoming campaigns had to be put on hold as well.

For Tourplus, Rickson told us that they had predicted the impact of the coronavirus outbreak as early as January, as it had already impacted their plans to enter China’s market.

The reduction of travellers inbound from China has been a big hit to the travel industry, he shared, adding, “We were forced to change our target market to other foreign markets, but in February as the coronavirus outbreak expanded, all other foreign cities went on lockdown as well and travel became limited.”

Even if people had still wanted to travel, governments were beginning to ban it.

To help cushion the impact, LokaLocal began discussions with MDEC to see how they could promote and transform tourism through digital innovations.

Meanwhile, looking to ease fear and uncertainty on the part of their customers, Emily informed us that Klook allowed customers who had booked activities with a participation date until April 30, 2020 to reschedule or seek a refund on their purchase.

Weathering The Storm

With regards to their own employees, Klook ensured that they could provide a safe workplace and virtual infrastructure to empower them to continue performing at a high level. “In Malaysia, we have implemented a mandatory Work from Home (WFH) policy before the announcement of Movement Control Order (MCO),” Emily said.

“The team is also leveraging this period of time to kickstart several internal projects to brush up skill sets that can equip them for the market rebound.”

For Tourplus, Rickson acknowledged that these are tough times, but he hopes that the team can stay with the company. “Hence, we’re offering different options including pay cuts and Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) to those in the team who would like to stay together,” he added.

Read this: VCs in Southeast Asia roll out initiatives to support startups during COVID-19

Over at LokaLocal, one of their goals during this crisis is to avoid layoffs where possible as well. Therefore, their team has agreed to take a temporary 10-50% pay cut, with some reducing their hours.

In a statement, CEO Chin Yoon Khen shared that they have even moved offices to lessen their financial burden. “We’re doing our best to manage our costs and operate in a leaner mode until the situation improves, and when we can make it work through our alternative revenue stream,” Rachael told us.

Tourism Will No Longer Be The Same

Rachael shared that at LokaLocal, they’re anticipating that even after the MCO gets lifted, it might take some time for the tourism sector to warm up again.

“The truth is, tourism won’t be the same again after this outbreak. As a tech company, we have to adapt to these changes to stay relevant and stay ahead,” she said.

“Our team is realigning our strategies to embrace even more digital approaches, which we plan to launch later on in the year.”

Earlier this year, they had launched a content and marketing arm called MY 360 Playbook that raises awareness for local destinations while helping businesses through video marketing and branded content.

Now they’ve also initiated their Online Experiences, where people can connect to LokaLocal’s pool of local experts virtually via online classes and webinars. The types of experiences offered an range from joining an Ayurveda session to taking a virtual visit to Kampung Baru.

On the other hand, Tourplus is considering partnering with local retailers to use Tourplus’ guide resources to help them bring in more income.

However, the project will only really be able to take effect when the rebound happens, as Tourplus can only build its foundations for now, Rickson said.

Klook Malaysia has also been exploring ways to provide further support for their merchants and partners, working directly with them to implement flexible policies and processes.

“As part of our recovery plan, we are also working closely with various partners including tourism boards around the world to leverage on Klook’s data to bridge the gap and curate better travel experiences for different segments of travellers in the future,” Emily concluded.

This article first appeared in the Vulcan Post.